Patterico's Pontifications

1/3/2019

Jonah Goldberg on Trump’s Character

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:42 pm



Many are responding to Mitt Romney’s critique of Trump’s character by saying that all Trump does is tweet mean stuff. Those who say that are laughably and willfully blind. Jonah Goldberg points out a few other glaring problems with the man, and notes the consequences: you will never be able to criticize a Democrat again for bad character, without being laughed at by people who will not forget:

Trump’s inability to hold onto cabinet secretaries of quality; his determination to shrink his political coalition; his refusal to do the minimum due diligence to understand and thereby explain his policy preferences; his incapacity to let insults, real or perceived, go unanswered; his relentless prevarication and insurmountable narcissism; his insistence on denigrating allies; his penchant for conspiracy theories and his unwavering pettiness: All of these things are reflections of his character, too. And they will have consequences for Trump, the GOP, the conservative movement, and the country. Roger can ignore or minimize these all he likes, but it will not persuade anyone who isn’t already a believer.

I often like to ask my AlwaysTrump friends, “What can the next Democratic president do that you won’t look like a hypocrite for criticizing?” No doubt there are some plausible policy answers to this. After all, Trump hasn’t pushed socialized medicine — at least not as president. But in terms of almost every other metric of the president’s role and responsibilities, Trump’s most unequivocal defenders are leaving themselves stranded on very small parcel of ground to stand upon once the Trump presidency is over. And their new attitude toward the issue of character barely leaves enough ground to stand on one foot.

There is much else to admire in Goldberg’s column. For example, he dissects several techniques used by Trump superfans, like whataboutism, box-checking (“to be sure, nobody thinks Donald Trump is a saint…”), the pretense to ignorance (“gee, I can’t remember his attacks on free speech!”), and the like. But the quoted passage strikes to the heart of it.

Read it all.

As Goldberg says, “the transactional defense of Donald Trump is intellectually defensible.” And I know that is the stance of many here. What irks folks like Goldberg and me is when people take the next step and engage in the various dishonest techniques described in this column, just because hey, we have chosen sides.

I long ago lost any respect for such people, and I no longer engage them. I consider discussion to be critical to society, but many people are simply not worth talking to. I liken it to jury selection. It is critical to talk to potential jurors and find out where they are coming from, but any trial lawyer worth his or her salt can easily spot the people not worth spending your limited time talking to. They are already against you and there is nothing more to be learned from further interaction.

So I don’t discuss Trump with such people. I simply don’t talk to them at all, unless it is to mock them for sport.

And when the next character-flawed Democrat comes along, I will be here to remind those people that they have no standing to complain about character.

Those who, like many of you, support the transactional defense — we don’t like the guy but we think he is good on balance and we will not dishonestly defend him — are still OK with me. I might think you’re wrong, but we can talk about it.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


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